There’s a phrase I came across in the last twenty years—“news you can use”—which I think came from one of Pema Chödrön ’s books.
Which reminds me of U.S. poet Ezra Pound’s version of a Confucian classic— “In letters of gold on T’ang bathtub: as the sun makes it new/day by day make it new/yet again make it new,” which became a modernist credo.
Which reminds me of a poem I share frequently, “The Good News” by Thich Nhat Hanh, which he wrote presciently in the late 1970s (“The good news they do not print/The good news we do print”).
All of which is to recognize that Amy Schmidt’s book Dipa Ma has news that I can use, it is a work to make myself and others new, and it is a demonstration itself of good news.
Less than two hundred pages but packed with one-liners, stories, recollections, and contextual advice, I offer five examples of the Good News of Dipa Ma…
When I feel I am not up to a particular challenge, I do well to call to mind this simple story: “Dipa Ma and I were on an airplane coming to the States from India. it was very, very turbulent, and at one point the plane hit an air pocket and dropped. Drinks and other objects flew up to the ceiling as the plane dropped downward before hitting stable air again. I kind of screamed. Dipa Ma was sitting across the aisle from me and she reached out and took my hand and she just held it. Then she whispered, ‘The daughters of the Buddha are fearless.’”
When I turn myself into knots by one-tracking on a particular story, I can come back to the present moment and remember this teaching: “Dipa Ma was able literally to see through the stories of the mind, she did not acknowledge personal dramas of any kind. She wanted her students to live from a deeper truth than their interpretations of, and identification with, the external events of their lives.”
When I get preoccupied with “I Can’t-ism,” I can take refuge in her words that were embodied in her life, “You can do anything you want to do.”
When I feel adrift and anxious, I can be confident in her observation, “The dharma is everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you are.”
When the mind is filled with a Soulard Mardi Gras of thoughts, I can experience transformation by following her way: “In my mind there are three things: concentration, loving-kindness, and peace.”
Encounters with Dipa Ma offer inspiration, challenge, direction, and relief.
“The whole path of mindfulness is this: Whatever you are doing, be aware of it.”